I Am Festival 2023 Highlights - Week Four

From the I Am Me Parade, to our panel discussion on Accessible Activism, Lynn Brackley looks back at some of the highlights from the fourth and final week of I Am Festival 2023.

16 June 2023

I’m not sure I need those new VR glasses. I went around the world on Thursday afternoon though my feet never left the ground, courtesy of the amazing Shenstone School in Crayford. Flags, traditional clothes, a Maypole and even Morris Dancing sparkled in the hot sun as the I Am Me Parade celebrated diversity and togetherness. All this plus a gallery of artwork inspired by countries from every continent. From Japanese cherry tree art and kimono design, to the banks of the Canadian lakes realised in breakfast cereal and beach huts in the sand closer to home. There was so much variety and quality in the techniques. The creativity of the young people were clearly in all of the work. Parents had joined in with the workshops and added an important dimension to the project. Well over 100 parents and carers came to be part of the celebration. Reaching out to students and families across three sites, this event is an ambitious model to continue to build on.

Earlier the same day, students at Garratt Park School were making protest placards with artist Miyuki Kasahara with the emphasis on the environment and climate change. Experimenting with messages inspired by photos of demonstrations, students worked together with their peers and used letter and image stencils to create their own designs. Simple, effective and all made on recycled cardboard, of course!

A highlight of the week has to be our panel discussion on accessible activism. Our speakers gave some thoughtful and inspiring responses to questions about making the theme more meaningful for disabled young people. It’s not always about shouting and confronting. It can be quite exhausting carrying that burden every day, and Jodi-Alissa Bickerton from Graeae Theatre spoke about the need for allies. Not to speak FOR but to make space, to be empathetic. In short, to care. Patience and kindness: it doesn’t sound all that dramatic but the impact is huge. We heard about activism in a school context, creative expression and the value of joy. We need more listening, more dialogue, more opportunities for all voices to be heard as barriers are still many and various.

A gallery view of the Accessible Activism panel discussion. Six people in two rows. In order of appearance: Lynn Brackley (A New Direction), Azyah (Young Associate from Graeae Theatre), Jodi-Alyssa Bickerson (Graeae Theatre), Jo Noble (teacher at Sybil Elgar School), Emma (BSL Interpreter), and Miss Jacqui
Screenshot from the Accessible Activism panel discussion

Thanks to the amazing panel: Ayzah (Young Associate at Graeae Theatre), Jodi-Alissa Bickerton (Creative Learning Director at Graeae Theatre), Miss Jacqui and Jo Noble (teacher at Sybil Elgar School). A recording of the discussion will be available if you missed it or if you want to watch it again.

And so, we come to the end of week four. There is much to build on and to inform our next festival. Take a look at the festival site for more images and information. Thanks so much to all the schools and organisations that contributed. The network is open to new members and we are all looking forward to our next I Am Festival in March 2024.